7 days 13 nights

Adelaide to Darwin to Adelaide:
14 day outback road trip

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Depart from:Adelaide
Finish in:Darwin
Best time to visit:Winter (May to September)
Trip Length:14 days, 13 nights (two weeks)
  • Port Augusta one night
  • Coober Pedy two nights
  • Uluru two nights
  • Alice Springs two nights
  • Watarrka Park one night
  • Katherine two nights
  • Nitmiluk Park two nights
  • Darwin one night
Safety:While you do not require a 4WD it is recommended that visitors check our outback resources article for a safe journey.
About Trip
Adelaide to Darwin road trip
Adelaide • Two weeks bucket list road trip

Your journey starts in Adelaide (for Darwin departures simply reverse the trip plan). Travel through the Red Centre with abandoned missile sites, iconic poster rocks such as Uluru, remote settlements and vibrant service centres such as Alice Springs. You will spend a night in solitude at Watarrka National Park, off the grid with the vast outback sky as your companion. Then onto the well known Katherine Gorges for a bucket list river cruise. Next Yellow River dusk river cruise to observe wildlife in their natural habitat. Aboriginal rock art, contemplation in rock pools, or a brisk walk through the Nitmiluk National Park. Your final destination is the multicultural city of Darwin where you regroup and plan the next Aussie adventure.

Pimba Salt Lakes

Day 1
Adelaide to Port Augusta
Stuart Highway

An urban vibe, yet retaining a community spirit Adelaide is a reminder, for New Zealanders of towns such as Timaru or Dunedin where locals still outnumber visitors and people recognise their neighbours.  Adelaide is the connection between the contemporary, multicultural city life of modern Australia and the outback. Plan a few extra days in Adelaide, exploring the city or perhaps a weekend visit to the Barossa Valley vineyards.

For your Adelaide guide and Adelaide day trips check out our articles.

Let’s get going.

Adelaide @adelaide.australia

Day 2
on foot
Port Augusta to Pimba
Woomera and Coober Pedy

Outback here you come. It is 547km from Port Augusta to Coober Pedy. Your view is of horizon to horizon with shimmer and shine salt pans. Sunglasses are obligatory.

570km, 5 ½ hours

Boab Trees, Australia

Day 3
Coober Pedy
Overnight Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy is an exploration of an opal mining town where the blistering heat has evolved into an underground lifestyle.

Coober Pedy Visitor Information Centre

  • Big winch lookout
  • Boot hill graveyard
  • Kanku Breakaways. Conservation Park (permit required, purchase from Visitor Information Centre) is a must do for visitors fascinated by a fence. The longest fence in the world at 5,300km in length. The fence is a 2 m wire barrier to protect sheep from the dingo.
  • Guided tour managed by Visitor Centre of the opal mines. Coober Pedy is a minefield of abandoned shafts, estimated over 1,500,00 unfenced drill holes.
  • Underground churches, Serbian Orthodox church 1992, St Peter and Paul Catholic Church 1967, The Catacomb Church 1970’s.
  • Catch the opal mining fever and try your hand at noodling. The visitor centre can direct you to areas open to the public which are not pegged claims. You are not permitted to use a pick, shovel or digging equipment.

Opal shop, Coober Pedy

Day 4
Coober Pedy to Uluru
8 hours, 755km

A long day with several rest stops and limitless desert as your touring landscape. Your treat is a sunset over Uluru while you relax from the day’s long road trip.

Sunset Uluru @eyeoftheexplorer

Day 5
Uluru exploration
Overnight Uluru

Uluru visitor information centre

  • Dawn starts with a commune with the rising sun over the Red Centre
  • Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), is a group of ancient rock forms about 30km from Uluru. Kata Tjuta and Uluru are the two major rock forms towering over the landscape. Kata Tjuta has several walking trails. Valley of the Winds Trail is a challenging walk, Karu lookout is 2.2km return, loose rocks mean sturdy boots. Drinking water is available at the start of the walk. Karingana lookout (5.4km return) takes you into the valley and creek beds. It is a steep walk with loose rocks. There are many uneven steps. Consider Walpa Gorge Walk (2.6km) is a relatively flat walk. Dune Viewing Platform, no walking required. It is requested that photographs are not posted onto social media due to the cultural significance of the site.

Ranger guided tour, Uluru, region landscape

Day 6
Uluru to Henbury Meteorite Craters
Watarrka National Park, Kings Canyon

This alternative route to Alice Springs can be driven in a 2WD during dry conditions, otherwise use the sealed route to Alice Springs. Remember to check for road conditions before departure from Uluru Kata Tjuta Visitor Centre.

Watarraka National Park, Kings Canyon

Day 7
Watarrka National Park
To Alice Springs

Alice Springs is a popular gateway for exploring the Red Centre, the country’s interior desert region. Its 1872 origin as part of the Overland Telegraph Line (linking Darwin and Adelaide) is preserved in the vintage buildings and equipment at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve.

3 hours, 20 minutes, 270km

Old Telegraph Station Building, Alice Springs

Day 8
Alice Springs exploration
Overnight Alice Springs

Perhaps outback ballooning into the sunrise with breakfast in the outback. A day to relax and unwind from the outback road journey to Alice. Check out the details on a weekend in Alice Springs for more inspiration and tips on how to get around without driving at all today. Park the vehicle today and let someone else do the driving.

Overnight Alice Springs.

Hot Air Ballooning, Alice Springs

Day 9
Alice Springs to Katherine Gorge
Nitmiluk National Park

A driving day, an outback road journey of over 1,000km. Daly Waters hotel described as an original true blue Aussie pub will be a very welcome sight.

NOTE: Excluded is a stop at Mataranka thermal pool. There is also the option of a detour to explore Elsey National Park. Another time with a focus of a circuit loop road trip from Darwin will definitely include detailed information on both attractions.

This sector requires shared driving to ensure that driver fatigue does not occur. Finally you arrive in Katherine.

Katherine Nitmiluk National Park @destination.daydreaming

Day 10
Katherine exploration
Overnight Katherine

A day to immerse yourself in the top end and enjoy your Katherine experience. Perhaps a river cruise or a helicopter flight or simply walks either guided or self-guided experiencing the outback.

Check the Katherine guide for details and safety tips to ensure your Katherine stay is enjoyable.

Overnight Katherine.

Katherine exploration @reignthespoodle

Day 11
Katherine to Kakadu
1 hour, 30 minutes, 150km

After a leisurely departure from Katherine you will arrive at Kakadu in time for an afternoon exploring Kakadu. Kakadu is the largest national park, jointly managed by Parks Australia and the Bininj / Mungguy people. Outback exploration does not come much better than Kakadu.

Where is Kakadu National Park

The western boundary is 150km east of Darwin, located in Australia’s tropical north. The Bowlie Visitor Centre, near the township of Jabiru is 250km from Darwin. Kakadu is enormous extending 200km from north to south and over 100km east to west. Coastal estuaries, floodplains, billabongs and lowlands to rock escapements and stone country in the south. Over a third of Australia’s birds call Kakadu home and the park is a reservoir of Australian fish species.

Standby Chasm, Nitmiluk Gorge, Kakadu National Park

Day 12
Kakadu exploration
Ubirr walk | Kakadu National Park

Cooinda is in the centre of the park, in the Yellow Water region. There is a general store selling petrol, diesel, groceries and souvenirs. If you have forgotten your insect repellant, sunscreen or need to ensure your water bottles are full this is the time to replenish your supplies. Inform the hotel reception of your plans for the day and check your route maps with the locals. It is likely you will be asked your proposed return time so that the hotel can ensure you are safe and sound. Download any map trails as mobile reception is patchy or non-existent in the park.

Kakadu exploration @kimberleyexpert

Day 13
Kakadu to Darwin
1 hour, 40 minutes, 151km

Darwin, the capital of tropical Australia, is lush and green. Darwin is the state capital for the Northern Territory. The city had to be virtually rebuilt after being devastated by cyclone Tracy in 1974. Darwin is also the most multicultural city in Australia, boasting over 75 nationalities, a large indigenous population (25 percent) and a diverse range of immigrants from Asia.

Darwin Historic Government House

Day 14
Return to Adelaide

You’ve arrived in Darwin.

Check out our city guide to Darwin for accommodation options and what to do and see in Darwin.

TIP: For one way rental options check with rental cars for the cheapest option whether it is Darwin to Adelaide or the reverse Adelaide to Darwin.  Remember to have comprehensive vehicle insurance as well as read our safety tips on travel in the outback.

TIP: Return to Adelaide or elsewhere, there is always the option of a train journey The Ghan beckons.

The Darwin Waterfront Precinct

Travel pack information

Darwin Mindil Beach Sunset Market

Travel pack information

  • Support Australian Automobile Association. The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) is the peak organisation representing Australia’s motoring clubs and their eight million members. The AAA advances the interests of all road users to ensure transport systems are safe, affordable and transparent.
  • Port Lincoln Arid Gardens, plantings PDF, Arid Gardens walking map PDF
  • Coober Pedy Visitor Information Centre for up to date tips for your Coober Pedy visit.
  • Henbury meteorites fact sheet PDF
  • Check the Uluru visitor information centre for numerous accommodation options.

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